COVID-19: Small Business Owners Guide

Is your small business impacted by the coronavirus pandemic? Here’s information about best practices during this time that can help you with funding, employee management, and more.

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Best small business practices during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic

This virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing, or talking. Learn more about the coronavirus from the CDC.

If your business is seen as essential and still operating out of an office, factory, or other central location, review these steps to maintain a safe work environment.

Put protocols in place to keep you and your staff healthy

  • Before employees enter your work place, assess their health. This could include a short questionnaire or using a thermometer to check for fever before they enter the workplace.
  • Washing hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Make sure there are handwashing stations available to all employees with hot water, anti-bacterial soap, and paper towels.
  • Require employees to wear approved masks, gloves, clothing coverings, or other safety tools that makes sense for your workspace.

Perform routine environmental cleaning

Guidelines from the CDC cover both cleaning and disinfecting:

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces. It does not kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfecting refers to using chemicals, for example, EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs, but by killing germs on a surface after cleaning, it can further lower the risk of spreading infection.

Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily that might be in your office’s common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).

Hard (Non-porous) Surfaces

  • Wear disposable gloves when cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. Gloves should be discarded after each cleaning. If reusable gloves are used, those gloves should be dedicated for cleaning and disinfection of surfaces for COVID-19 and should not be used for other purposes.
  • If surfaces are dirty, they should be cleaned using a detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
  • For disinfection, most common EPA-registered household disinfectants should be effective.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products for (concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).
  • Diluted household bleach solutions (at least 1000ppm sodium hypochlorite) can be used if appropriate for the surface. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application, ensuring a contact time of at least 1 minute, and allowing proper ventilation during and after application.

Soft (Porous) Surfaces

For soft (porous) surfaces such as carpeted floor, rugs, and drapes, remove visible contamination if present and clean with appropriate cleaners indicated for use on these surfaces. Use cleaning products recommended by the CDC that are suitable for porous surfaces.

Electronics

For electronics such as cell phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, and keyboards, remove visible contamination if present.

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products.
  • Consider use of wipeable covers for electronics.
  • If no manufacturer guidance is available, consider the use of alcohol-based wipes or sprays containing at least 70% alcohol to disinfect touch screens.

Human Resources during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic

Here are questions you (or your human resources employee) might face during this time:

  • Would an employee who is afraid of coming to work and possibly being exposed to COVID-19 be eligible for paid sick leave?
  • Must employees taking Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) leave due to the new school and childcare closing rules work at a location with 50 employees within a 75-mile radius to be eligible?
  • How do the new requirements interact with collective bargaining agreements?
  • How and when do employers apply for the tax credit?
  • Are married spouses working for the same employer entitled to 12 weeks each of FMLA leave for child care or must they split the 12 weeks as with traditional FMLA leave?
  • If an employee takes FMLA leave for his or her own serious health condition related to COVID-19, is the employee eligible for this new category of paid FMLA leave?
  • If an employer requires an employee to self-quarantine, such as after returning from personal travel, would the employee be eligible for emergency paid sick leave?
  • Emergency paid sick leave may be used to care for an individual who is subject to either the first or second allowable reason for paid leave. Who qualifies as an “individual”?

For answers to these and other important questions, visit the Society for Human Resource Management website.

Common coronavirus COVID-19 issues small businesses may face

Here are resources on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog regarding PPP loans:

*Note that Paycheck Protection Program loans are subject to a funding cap that is rapidly approaching in mid-April. You should download the application here and contact your bank ASAP to apply. The applications opened up on April 3, 2020 and PPP loans will be available through June 30, 2020. If you are self-employed or an independent contractor, the PPP loan application went live on April 10, 2020, according to the SBA.

Workforce capacity

Small business owners are dealing with the fast pivot of office workers to home offices, constantly changing government regulations, and employee inability to report to work. Organizations need to know who is able to work and if responsibilities have shifted. Having personnel perform a daily self check-in, or having supervisors set goals gives organizations clarity into workforce capacity.

The SmartBiz Small Business Blog has resources you can use if you’re not accustomed to managing employees remotely: 12 Tips for Managing Remote Employees Successfully.

Inventory and supply chain shortfalls

Supermarket shortages and need for essential supplies are just one disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Production stoppages in locations across China and other countries can affect all types of small businesses across the U.S. Being proactive is critical if faced with shortages. Investment and decisions should be made swiftly. Review this fact sheet for additional strategies: Managing Supply Chain Risk and Disruption.

Insurance coverage issue

As businesses face losses due to COVID-19, insurance claims will likely increase. Whether these claims are covered depends on several factors. For businesses that have interruption insurance, recovery generally depends on factors including:

  • The property has to sustain damage (e.g., a fire)
  • The property must be insured (renters might be excluded)
  • The peril itself must be insured (not specifically excluded)
  • The loss must be quantifiable

If all these conditions exist, coverage could pay out for the entire period of time it takes to restore the damaged property and put the company back in business. Check with your insurance agent or an attorney specializing in small business insurance to discuss your options.

Marketing

It’s more important than ever to keep your brand front and center for current and potential customers. Best practices for marketing during this time include:

Invest in your marketing if you can

You don’t want to disappear during this time. If you can afford to invest in marketing without crunching your cash flow, look for inexpensive ways. Social media is blowing up and often the only source of news for some. If you’re customers are on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, work on keeping a consistent content flow.

Focus on your existing customers

If your business is temporarily shuttered, keep up engagement with your current customers. That could mean sending out email blasts, newsletters, or posting replies on social media. Let them know you appreciate their business and look forward to coming back stronger than ever.

Stay positive

Finally, it’s important to stay as positive as possible. If you’re quarantined, stress levels can be high for you and your team. Here are some resources to review:

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